One Run relays aid and comfort

Jason Williamson of Cresson is a runner.

Williamson didn’t run this year’s Boston Marathon, where terrorist bombs went off at the finish line.

He’s never run any marathon – or even anything close to 10 miles.

But he’s a runner, and shortly after dawn Thursday, he’ll become part of a cross-country relay to raise money for the victims of those bombs.

And when he gets the chance to carry the relay baton during his leg from Cresson to Duncansville, Williamson expects to feel at-one with the runners who are handing off that symbol of teamwork hand-to-hand for 3,000 miles, Los Angeles-to-Boston, ending Sunday.

“I’m really looking forward to being a part of that baton actually making it from the West Coast to the East Coast,” said Williamson, one of 16 runners signed up for the Cresson-to-Duncansville leg. “[Then] I think I’ll have a connection with anyone who came before me or after.”

At-one-ment seems to be the goal of the relay project, which launched June 7, and on Friday evening was passing through Missouri: the trek is called “One Run for Boston.”

In contrast to Williamson, Ethan Imhoff of Hollidaysburg, who is also running the relay, was close to the bombing.

He finished this year’s Boston Marathon in three hours and three minutes, or about an hour and a half before the bombs went off – by which time he was a mile and a half away, in a hotel room with his wife and 10-year-old son.

“I thought it was just any urban noise,” he said.

Maybe a dump truck discharging a noisy load, he thought.

His wife soon got a text, however, saying there’d been explosions.

But Imhoff was thinking something like a ruptured sewer line.

Then there were more text messages, and as they walked out to get something to eat, an electronic blackout – then “ambulances going by in volume.”

It was clear by then something was seriously wrong.

Then they began to see “distraught” runners, and a man in a cowboy hat giving an interview – whom they later learned was the subject of widely distributed media pictures helping a man in a wheelchair injured in the bombings.

Imhoff’s family started to piece things together, even as they witnessed the “weird dynamic” of those shocked runners amid jubilant Red Sox fans leaving Fenway Park after a walk-off double got their team a win.

It may have been a bit of a weird dynamic for Imhoff himself, who had a hard, satisfying race, and was exhausted emotionally and physically.

He grew frustrated after getting kicked out of a restaurant that closed because of the bombing.

He was processing the news of the bombing “for what it was,” but his wife and son were shaken up.

They ended up going back to their hotel, then left for home next morning, when the subway line reopened so they could ride to get their car, jettisoning their original plans to stay in Boston and see the sights for a couple of days.

Imhoff will be running the eight-mile leg from Ebensburg to Cresson – and maybe the 9.5-mile Cresson to Duncansville leg.

He too has been contemplating the solidarity potential of the event.

It’s definitely different for him, having run that day in Boston, he said.

He wonders: “did I get a high five from any of the people who were injured?”

And what of the medical professional assigned to the finish line who came up to him and asked if he was OK, as he bent over following the race to catch his breath?

“I wonder what that person did afterward,” he said.

For Adam McGinnis, leader of the Fox Trot Runners of Duncansville and official signatory for the Cresson-to-Duncansville leg, running credentials aren’t important.

“The running community is very close knit,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or how fast you are, we all are equal.”

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.